Friday, July 8, 2011

Breillat's THE SLEEPING BEAUTY goes even farther afield--& brilliantly--than Bluebeard

And you thought the princess just pricked her finger and went to sleep?  No, we're in Catherine Breillat territory,
a la last year's Bluebeard, and so, yes, she does get "pricked" -- finally in both meanings of the word. But what an event-filled and fanciful tale this lately more quietly transgressive French filmmaker has given us! From the start in her newest film, THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, eschewing the use of heavy duty special effects, this writer/director simply has the princess' mom unable to see the evil or good fairies that curse and then (sort of) lift same from her newborn daughter. (The good fairies' bickering in this scene proves a surprise delight: ladies, please!) 

Jumping off from the original  Charles Perrault story and using a mix of periods in the costumes, as well as a blend of fantasy and reality, the filmmaker, shown at right, also negotiates a sweet combination of poetry and naturalism in the dialog, as she explores the ways in which this primal tale continues to impact women (and men). Or maybe it's all about how we continue to play the roles in which history, psychology and DNA have cast us. If Breillat's illusions are sometime illusive (her allusions are allusive, too), all the better: Who wants to be whacked atop the head with insistent "meaning." 

Overall, The Sleeping Beauty truly is enchanting and -- oh, yes -- sexual. And dark, though there's light at the end of the tunnel. Sort of. One of the great pleasures of late (I should say mid-life) Breillat is that, while her works grows less transgressive, it is not in the least less challenging or less entertaining. It is also less blatantly, in-your-face sexual -- remember Romance?  Anatomy of Hell? -- and while I have to say I loved Breillat in that mode, I'm perfectly willing to watch and hear her in this one, too.

The kind of road trip the filmmaker has her "beauty" take, while sleeping, is so much more interesting than mere sleep, or the usual dreams/
nightmares most movies offer (along the way, she seems to have mashed-up to interesting effect The Sleeping Beauty with bits of The Snow Queen). The odd and unforgettable people (and animals) our heroine meets on her journey are all worth their weight, as well. Made for French television, the film pretty much nails the differences between Europe's and America's sophistication levels where entertainment and age-appropriate viewing is concerned. 

The Sleeping Beauty made its New York debut during the Film Society of Lincoln Center's most recent Rendez-vous With French Cinema. Here in the states, Strand Releasing is distributing the movie, which opens today in New York at the IFC Center, and on July 29 in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Sunset 5.  It'll play theatrically elsewhere, too, I am sure.

The photo of Ms Breillat, above, comes courtesy of IndieWire.

No comments: